Vol. 12 No. 7 July 2010
A few years ago, in one of the local shopping malls, a man of extraordinary skill and vision brought in a large section of a specially chosen log, and with patience and precision, he used his chain saw to carve out a remarkable resemblance of the legendary Coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, of football fame. The massive structure was truly breathtaking in its resemblance to Coach Bryant. Multitudes of awe-struck folks stood with mouth open and eyes glaring at the marvelous statue. The artist’s attention to minute detail and realism was uncanny! However, Alas! A little time and the normal wear and tear of aging took its toll, and the lovely work had to be removed. Big cracks began to emerge, and discoloration took place in numerous areas. As magnificent as the structure had been, there came a time when it had to be removed rather than become an embarrassment to the mall and the artisan.
The Old Testament abounds with God’s instructions regarding the numerous “idols” with which Israel seemed to be smitten. The Israelites made idols of wood, stone, metal, and many times of precious gems, gold and silver. No matter how professional the artisans were, the objects of their efforts were still “made with hands” and could neither speak, hear nor do anything at all. They were inanimate objects, made by human hands, and not worthy of any worship or adoration. Although the Jews were often found running from one idol to another, they were without excuse for so doing, because God’s instructions from the beginning were clear, concise and understandable! Stay away from idols! Look at the Old Testament injunctions against allegiance with any kind of idols!
Although these people sacrificed their gold, silver and precious stones for the production of manmade idols, God still lovingly tried to entreat them with His longsuffering wisdom. “Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord” ( Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Jeremiah continued to exhort these fickle Jews. For the customs of the people are vain: “For one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (Jeremiah 10:3-5).
A careful study of the following Scriptures will reveal some clear teaching concerning idols, and how God views such: Exodus 34:17, Leviticus 26:1, Jeremiah 16:20 and Exodus 20:3. These Jews were not ignorant of these instructions because God had spoken clearly and concisely after leading the captives forth from Egyptian bondage. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:3, 4). The same prohibitions apply to us, as well as to the idols of “pleasure, idleness, money, jobs, cars, time, family, recreation, disobedience, unthankfulnes, unkindness, ungodliness, stinginess and worldliness.” If these are in our lives to the exclusion of God, they have become our “idols.” Let us beware!
D. Gene West
One of the greatest mistakes that students of the Bible in modern times can make is to interpret the Bible as if it were written to men living in the 21st century. Though the Bible is a timeless book, it was not written to any of us living beyond the 1st century. Interpreting the Bible as if it were written to us will cause no end of trouble. If you think that is an overstatement, just give some attention to the foolishness that is being palmed off on the American people by the Premillennialists. Consequently, we must always remember that the New Testament was written to the people and churches to whom the various books are directed. Some will immediately criticize that we are saying the Bible does not apply to us. Nothing even remotely like that has been said — nor will it be! While the perfect Book containing all that pertains to life and godliness was not written to us, it was most assuredly written for us. Every book of the Bible was written to fit the historical context existing when it was written. Sometimes we recognize that, but often we do not. In all probability, we do not because of our effort to get back to the Bible in all things spiritual, as nearly as humanly possible, doing things as they were done in apostolic times.
We also recognize that not all that was done in apostolic times affects us in any way today. For example, we all very willingly admit that Paul traveled by ship and by foot. Yet, we do not insist, and rightly so, that the only scriptural way to travel today is either on foot, or in what to us today would be small boats, to our destinations, even when we are going there to preach the Gospel of the Savior. In apostolic times, as far as we know, our brethren neither owned nor built magnificent church buildings in which they worshiped God as we do today. We know that many Christians among the Gentiles worshiped in the homes of brethren. Yet, we do not consider such an arrangement binding on us. No doubt, one reason we do not consider such binding on us is the long tradition of building special places of worship, which dates back, so archaeologists tell us to the 2nd century after Christ B a time too late to be apostolic. Hence, we recognize the statements made about churches meeting in the homes of brethren were made to inform us of their historical conditions, and not to bind such an arrangement on the church for all time. This could be illustrated in a dozen other ways, but this will suffice. If it be objected that the fact that the 1st century Christians had meeting places, even if they were the homes of brethren, gives us generic authority to make any arrangement for meeting places we deem appropriate, we make no objection at all and agree totally.
In order to understand the New Testament and properly apply only that which is applicable to ourselves, we must understand that the grand Book was written for us, not to us, and always interpret it in its historical context. That means that those of us who are teachers of the Word have to have, at least some ideas of the historical milieu of the times. We often do not, and even refuse to attempt to gain such. Not long ago we read a statement by a young (extremely ignorant and naive) preacher who boldly proclaimed that he did not have to know history to teach the Bible and that he refused to teach the Bible in the light of history — that history had nothing to do with the Word of God. How pitiable such a statement is, but many more people feel that way, we are persuaded, than will say so.
From time to time, we hear people say such things as, “I just get disgusted when anyone mentions the fall of Jerusalem.” Or, “Who cares what was going on with Nero at such and such a time?” This is the reason these people, good and honorable though they may be, will never get a good grasp on the New Testament and its holy teaching. I recently heard, “The New Testament says little or nothing about the fall of Jerusalem.” Friends, with love and respect, that simply is not true. Such ideas cause great and extreme misinterpretations of Scripture. Again, we are told, if that applies to Jerusalem, it leaves nothing for us, when we point out that certain judgments mentioned in the New Testament refer to the fall of Jerusalem. We cannot help but wonder where such ideas come from. Remember for not to.
[Understanding the context of a passage of Scripture is every bit as important as understanding the meaning of the individual words that comprise the passage of Scripture. In fact, some passages cannot be correctly interpreted without considering the context of surrounding verses, the context of the book of the Bible or even the context of the Bible overall, because some words have various meanings that are only discernible in a given instance based on the context in which the appear. Respecting context, historical context has everything to do with correct biblical interpretation of the Word of God, if for no other reason since words change meanings over time and whatever we understand about historical writings (including the Bible) is tempered, even involuntarily, with the historical period in which we live. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]